Tacoma vs. Tundra: Everything You Need To Know About Toyota’s Pickup Trucks

Tacoma vs. Tundra: Everything You Need To Know About Toyota’s Pickup Trucks

The Toyota Tacoma and the Toyota Tundra – just like their namesakes – are two solid and powerful pickups. Toyota was very intentional when planning what would go into these trucks, even choosing their names carefully. Tacoma was once the name of Mount Rainier in Washington, and geographical regions known as tundras are harsh, barren polar deserts where only the strongest survive. 

Both trucks are so comparable, so choosing between the two can be difficult. Here, we break down the similarities and differences between the Tacoma and the Tundra and the pros and cons of each Toyota pickup.

How are the Tacoma and the Tundra similar?

Both Toyotas offer the option of two or four-wheel drive, two engine sizes, two cab sizes, multiple bed sizes, and plenty of extra features and add-ons like TRD Off-Road and Pro for drivers who feel the urge to venture off the pavement and into the wild.

Technically speaking, the Tacoma and the Tundra are on par with one another. Both pickups come with the same infotainment system and driver-assist features, similar interior aesthetics, and trim levels. The actual significant differences lie in their physical traits and capabilities.

So when it comes to choosing between the Tacoma and the Tundra, the answer lies in knowing how you plan on using it. Will you be towing heavy loads or heading into uncharted territory? Or will you be staying in town save for the occasional weekend camping trip at a nearby national park?

What’s the size difference between the Tacoma and the Tundra?

The Tacoma is Toyota's midsize truck and comes with two engine options: a 2.7-liter four-cylinder and a larger 3.5-liter V6. With the increased engine size, you can also have the choice of opting for a six-speed manual transmission if you like that extra bit of control.

The Tundra is Toyota's full-size pickup, built to compete with other heavy-weight champions such as the Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150, and Nissan Titan. Like the Tacoma, the Tundra features two engine options: a 4.6-liter V8 and a 5.7-liter V8. In short, you get a lot more truck with the Tundra than with the Tacoma.

Which of the two Toyota pickups has more power?

Although the Tacoma is the smaller of the two trucks, it can still get the job done when it comes to towing, thanks to its ability to haul up to 3,500 pounds. If you need more towing capacity but still prefer the truck's smaller profile, you can get the Tacoma with the larger engine size, which can tow up to 6,800 pounds. Despite being the smaller of the two, the Tacoma's payload isn't that far behind that of the Tundra, which can carry up to 1,620 pounds. 

Comparing the Tacoma's power with the Tundra's power, the Tundra wins when it comes to towing large loads. The smaller-engine version can haul the same as the Tacoma's larger engine, up to 6,800 pounds. Swap out the base model engine for its more muscular counterpart, and it's ready to tow up to 10,200 pounds. On top of that, it has a payload of 1,730 pounds.

In short, if you're looking to transport your off-road vehicles or boat, the Tacoma may be the right choice for you. But if you're looking for a truck to use on the farm or job site, the Tundra is your best bet.

2015 Toyota Tundra SR (from $27,650)

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Which is more fuel efficient, the Tacoma or the Tundra?

Since it’s a small truck that runs on a smaller engine, the Tacoma is slightly more fuel-efficient than the Tundra. The smaller 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine has a fuel efficiency of 20 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. Despite the size difference, the larger 3.5-liter V6 gets similar gas mileage: 17 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.

The Tundra isn’t too far off, but it is slightly less fuel-efficient given its massive size. The smaller 4.6-liter V8 makes for a fuel efficiency of 15 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. The larger 5.7-liter V8, however, gets 13 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway. In a nutshell, the Tundra is a workhorse.

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How does the Tacoma’s interior space compare to the Tundra’s?

Both the Tacoma and the Tundra come in two cab sizes. The Tacoma offers an access cab and a double cab. Ideally, you won't sit your friends or coworkers in the back of the access cab. Even though it does have seats, they're better suited for small children or pets. The double cab, however, offers more legroom for full-size adult passengers. It's a worthwhile upgrade if you're looking to seat up to five people.

The Tundra has a double cab option as well, much like that of the Tacoma. If you're looking to go the distance with adult passengers in the back, you're better off choosing the "Crewmax cab" for its additional legroom.

Both trucks come with different bed size options: a 5-foot or 6-foot bed on the Tacoma and a 5.5 or 6.5-foot bed on the Tundra. The double-cab Tundra also offers the option of an 8.1-foot bed.

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport (from $41,950)

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport (from $41,950)
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Which has the better price, the Tacoma or the Tundra?

The Tacoma base model starts at $26,400 new, while the Tundra goes for $34,025. Purchasing a base model can have upsides – namely the lowest MSRP – but keep in mind the base prices don’t include larger engines, cabs, or beds. You’ll notice as you add features, the total cost quickly adds up.

If a new model of your dream truck isn’t in your budget, or you’re just looking to have some extra cash, you can pick up a used Tacoma for as little as $17,100. You can also get into one of the TRD sport trim levels for just a bit more, with used ones starting at $30,600. If you notice an older model when shopping for used Toyota pickups, remember they’re known for their reliability, so you won’t have to skip over a great deal if you can get your hands on one.

You also have options with the Tundra, with used models starting at $24,000, approximately $10,000 less than their new counterparts. Some higher trim levels and more loaded used Tundras are available for around $40,000.

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Tacoma or Tundra: Which is better?

Deciding which truck is better for you comes down to personal preference. Are you a weekend warrior that needs a vehicle to cart around your large toys? The Tacoma may be your match. Do you need a truck for your farm or job site? The Tundra is meant for you.

If you want to see how the Tacoma compares to other pickups, we've also compared it to other pickups across different brands. If it's the Tundra you're after, we've given it the spotlight so you can learn more.

Whichever truck you decide to take home, Shift offers best-in-class service contracts at a fair price without pushy sales tactics. That means you get bumper-to-bumper protection of a new car for the savvier price of a used one. 

So, just one question remains: Which adventure will you choose?

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Author
Shift Editorial Team